Two aides to Al Gore improperly called the IRS on the same day in Jan. 1997 seeking information on a tax case of interest to a unnamed union whose president was scheduled to meet with Gore the next day, Congressional investigators reported Mar. 16. The Joint Committee on Taxation’s report said that the two “appear to have attempted to obtain taxpayer return information to which they were not entitled.” Federal law bars almost any release of IRS information on specific taxpayers.
Lindy L. Paull, JCT’s chief, said that she was constrained by taxpayer confidentiality from identifying the union. She said the calls, which the IRS rebuffed, raised questions about whether Gore’s office created the “appearance of influence” on the union’s behalf.
According to the report and supporting IRS documents, the then-counsel to Gore, Kumiki Gibson, and Gore staffer, Joe Eyer, both called the IRS on Jan. 28, 1997 “and in violation of written White House policies…attempted to secure taxpayer return information.” Under White House policy, “no member of the…staff should have any communication of any type with the IRS without prior approval of the [White House] Counsel.”
Paull said the calls were made in connection with an impending IRS decision about whether certain workers could be classified as independent contractors or employees for tax purposes. The Gore staffers were reportedly trying to determine the status of the case so Gore could use the information at the meeting with the affected union
It’s illegal for gov’t employees to divulge taxpayer information unless authorized by law. Not only did the IRS employees refuse to disclose the information, they reported the matter to the Treasury Dept.’s inspector general.
Tex. Gov. George W. Bush said, “[N]ow we find he has attempted to use political influence on behalf of a union with the IRS. These aren’t mistakes, they’re habits. They raise serious questions about whether [Gore] is the right person to be the next president. I think it’s time for a fresh start.” Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Gore should also disclose whether the union made any campaign contributions to him. [N.Y. Times, Wash. Post 3/17/00]